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Lack of land, lack of choice

In recent months, mainstream coverage that gets into thorny internal indigenous issues has been improving. The Victoria Times-Colonist ran a surprisingly detailed and thoughtful piece on a current dispute over logging on Saturna Island. In this case, instead of the usual settler resource gobblers v land protectors, the division lies within and among the Tsawout and Tseycum, two Saanich peninsula First Nations, over the decision to clear cut a piece of paradise adjacent to a national park in order to raise some desperately needed revenue. Green MLA and Tsartlip First Nation member Adam Olsen provided some insight into the difficulties of being green and being indigenous and being poor and how providing a good life for people crammed into inadequate reserves forces terrible choices upon them.

Adam also describes the problems of "settler-splaining," noting that sometimes environmentalists will find areas of common ground, and sometimes they won't. It's a hard lesson - how many times have I heard settlers say "you see, they're just as bad as we are" about economic developments on indigenous lands that look EXACTLY LIKE every other fast food joint and gas station ever built by settlers. Easy to judge. But what should we do instead?

As settlers, we should turn our criticism to the colonial state, the original theft of land and the ongoing legacy of dispossession, poverty and oppression that First Nations are left to work with. Clear cuts on reserve lands, that's on us. Our works likes in #decolonizing the structures that hold people down and back.

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